U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent People and Events Decisions

If you've ever run into the so-called 'sovereign citizen' theory of the law, you know that it is, well, complete BS. The sovereign citizen movement is based on a strange interpretation of common law, the Uniform Commercial Code, and maritime law, which followers believe allows them to avoid taxes and pretty much all legal authorities. It's a movement based out of conspiracy, confusion, and a paranoid view of reality. It's just nuts.

But Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner is taking some heat from his colleagues for saying as much in court. Faced with a pro se sovereign citizen defendant in 2015, Posner showed little patience for the man's arguments, calling them "complete bullshit." Now his colleagues are considering whether Posner's frustration denied the man a fair trial.

Listen up, suspicious husbands, nosy wives, and exes who just can't let go: unpermitted snooping into your partner's email may be a violation of the federal Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act. That is, according to a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit.

The case involves a contentious divorce between Paula and Barry Epstein. Paula accused Barry of "serial infidelity." Barry demanded proof. Much to his surprise, Paula handed over Barry's own, purloined emails. Barry sued, saying that his soon-to-be ex-wife had violated the Wiretap Act. It was an interpretation of the act the Seventh Circuit endorsed, though it noted that "Congress probably didn't anticipate" the use of the Wiretap Act "as a tactical weapon in a divorce proceeding."

If you want to possess a firearm in Illinois, you need a Firearm Owners Identification card, or FOID. FOIDs aren't hard to get. A driver's license, recent photograph, and $10 are all that's required of most applicants. But if you're between the ages of 18 and 20, you'll also need a parent's consent. If mom and dad won't sign off, you have to jump through a few administrative hoops.

That extra hassle for teens who want guns isn't unconstitutional, the Seventh Circuit ruled on Monday.

Customers who have seen their personal information stolen due to corporate data breaches have suffered recognizable injuries and have standing to sue, the Seventh Circuit ruled in late July. The court's holding revived a consumer class action against Neiman Marcus. Customers had sued after a data breach exposed their personal information and credit card numbers.

The ruling could be a boon for consumer advocates and class action lawyers, helping to reduce a major roadblock to litigation. For corporations who are victims to hacking, it could greatly increase their potential liabilities.

You won't find him wandering the streets of Chicago anytime soon, let alone reviving his political career, but ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich became a bit less of a felon yesterday, as the Seventh Circuit tossed out five of his 18 convictions. Blagojevich, you may remember, was arrested while serving as Governor of Illinois in 2009, after investigators caught him trying to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Blagojevich was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, attempted extortion, wire fraud, and associated crimes. Mistakes in jury instructions require that five of those convictions be vacated, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

Smoking Gun in Text Message Antitrust Suit Not Smoking Enough

Remember the days before unlimited text messaging plans? Text messages seemed to cost an obscene amount of money. If you actually calculated the data cost, at 20 cents per text, it averaged out to over $1,300 per megabyte.

The current litigation in the Seventh Circuit is now over four years old. It's a class action brought by text messaging customers claiming wireless providers conspired to drive up text message prices in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. After all that time, a district court granted summary judgment for the wireless carriers and dismissed the case. Last week, in an opinion by Judge Richard Posner, the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

5 Things to Be Thankful for in the Seventh Circuit

As we give thanks this year, we wondered, what is there to be thankful for in the Seventh Circuit?

Partly it's that we never stop to consider the court beyond its opinions (and partly it's a slow news week in the Seventh). When we crunched the numbers, we found out there was a lot of great stuff happening in the court of appeals that covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Here are just five of them.

Redbox Isn't Violating 1980s Video-Rental Privacy Law: 7th Cir.

Believe it or not, federal law prohibits disclosing a person's videotape rental records. Congress passed the Video Privacy Protection Act after Judge Robert Bork's video rental history was leaked during his failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. (The author of a widely read article on "The Bork Tapes," Michael Dolan, said that the leak was a response to Bork's assertions that only statutes, and not the Constitution, could protect the right to privacy.)

Kevin Sterk and Jiah Jung live in the year 2014. They're users of the DVD-rental service Redbox, and they sued under the video rental history law, claiming that Redbox violated the law by forwarding customer information to a company called Stream.

7th Cir. Gets Fed. Court Out of Wis. Campaign Finance Case

As you've no doubt read before, Wisconsin state officials are investigating Governor Scott Walker's office for violations of campaign finance laws. The allegations -- which came to light through the Seventh Circuit's inadvertent disclosure of documents -- were that the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a political advocacy organization, had illegally coordinated with Governor Scott Walker's anti-recall efforts.

At the same time a criminal investigation against "John Doe" targets was ongoing, Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board launched its own investigation and subpoenaed documents from the Club for Growth.

7th Cir. Accidentally Releases Gov. Walker Campaign Probe Documents

In 2012, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dodged efforts to recall him after his administration stripped public employees of their union rights. He didn't emerge completely unscathed, however -- shortly after the election, prosecutors began looking into whether members of his administration violated campaign finance laws.

Though two judges have already heard the evidence and ordered prosecutors to back off, the Seventh Circuit is currently hearing those prosecutors' pleas to continue looking into the governor's staff's ties to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a nonprofit conservative group that funneled cash to a number of other conservative PACs that helped Gov. Walker fight back against the recall push.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit accidentally released confidential documents related to the case. What did those documents show?